Category Archives: Evangelicals

Read the Catechism in a Year: Day 2

Prologue (1 – 25)

“FATHER, … this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” “God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” – than the name of JESUS.

III. THE AIM AND INTENDED READERSHIP OF THE CATECHISM

11 This catechism aims at presenting an organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards both faith and morals, in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church’s Tradition. Its principal sources are the Sacred Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, the liturgy, and the Church’s Magisterium. It is intended to serve “as a point of reference for the catechisms or compendia that are composed in the various countries”.

12 This work is intended primarily for those responsible for catechesis: first of all the bishops, as teachers of the faith and pastors of the Church. It is offered to them as an instrument in fulfilling their responsibility of teaching the People of God. Through the bishops, it is addressed to redactors of catechisms, to priests, and to catechists. It will also be useful reading for all other Christian faithful.

IV. STRUCTURE OF THIS CATECHISM

13 The plan of this catechism is inspired by the great tradition of catechisms which build catechesis on four pillars: the baptismal profession of faith (the Creed), the sacraments of faith, the life of faith (the Commandments), and the prayer of the believer (the Lord’s Prayer).

Part One: The Profession of Faith

14 Those who belong to Christ through faith and Baptism must confess their baptismal faith before men. First therefore the Catechism expounds revelation, by which God addresses and gives himself to man, and the faith by which man responds to God (Section One). The profession of faith summarizes the gifts that God gives man: as the Author of all that is good; as Redeemer; and as Sanctifier. It develops these in the three chapters on our baptismal faith in the one God: the almighty Father, the Creator; his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior; and the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, in the Holy Church (Section Two).

Part Two: The Sacraments of Faith

15 The second part of the Catechism explains how God’s salvation, accomplished once for all through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is made present in the sacred actions of the Church’s liturgy (Section One), especially in the seven sacraments (Section Two).

Part Three: The Life of Faith

16 The third part of the Catechism deals with the final end of man created in the image of God: beatitude, and the ways of reaching it — through right conduct freely chosen, with the help of God’s law and grace (Section One), and through conduct that fulfills the twofold commandment of charity, specified in God’s Ten Commandments (Section Two).

Part Four: Prayer in the Life of Faith

17 The last part of the Catechism deals with the meaning and importance of prayer in the life of believers (Section One). It concludes with a brief commentary on the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (Section Two), for indeed we find in these the sum of all the good things which we must hope for, and which our heavenly Father wants to grant us.

 Day 1 – Day 3

Catholic Media Coalition Joins Bishops To Defend Religious Freedom Against the HHS Mandate

The Catholic Media Coalition praised the Catholic bishops of the United States today for their unanimous call to defend the First Amendment freedom of religion guaranteed to religious institutions and people of faith. The Obama administration’s mandate requiring religious institutions to provide contraception including abortifacients and requiring  individuals to participate in health plans covering these moral evils is a direct assault on the First Amendment freedom of religion and the free exercise clause.

Mary Ann Kreitzer, President, CMC president, said, “We join with our bishops in opposing the administration’s unprecedented assault on religious rights and freedom of conscience. The HHS mandate does not just impact Catholics, but every religious institution and individual who acts from deeply-held faith-based beliefs. Many of our forefathers fled the old world because of religious persecution. They established a new world where the right to worship God was respected and protected as an unalienable right. The Founders of this nation would be appalled at the abject tyranny of the Obama administration. As faithful laity, we stand in solidarity with our bishops and demand an end to the HHS mandate. There is no compromise that can make it acceptable to Catholics.”

Among the statements of the bishops applauded were the many letters read in dioceses throughout the country calling on the Catholic faithful to oppose the mandate and particularly the letter to the U.S. Bishops from USCCB head, Cardinal Timothy Dolan:

This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization—although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all. If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end? This violates the constitutional limits on our government, and the basic rights upon which our country was founded.

CMC joins Cardinal Dolan in affirming that the issue is not simply contraception or abortion, but “religious liberty for all.” We call on all Catholics to stand in solidarity with our spiritual shepherds to protect the rights of people of conscience.

@OWSatanic

This photo is from the “Occupy Wall Street” inspired riots in Rome. At one point rioters from the “Indignant” movement stormed into a Catholic church, tore down a crucifix and smashed that statue. Damages were around $1.4 million. HT/GUY C. STEVENSON

Preaching Biblical Religion…

Saint Polycarp
Saint Polycarp

The Bible and the Fathers

BY DR. SCOTT HAHN ON 10.13.11

It was the Bible that made me read the Fathers.
When I was studying for the Presbyterian ministry, I wanted to understand the world where Jesus lived and where the apostles preached. I wanted to defend the New Testament canon against its latest round of challenges, for example — against those who would place the newfound “Gnostic Gospels” on the same footing as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
My research into that world was my introduction to the Christians who lived in that world: the Fathers of the Church. I first turned to the writings of the men who appeared most often in the Bible commentaries I read, the men who knew the apostles — the so-called Apostolic Fathers. Clement of Rome knew Peter and Paul. Polycarp knew John. Ignatius lived in Antioch, the city where the disciples were first called Christians, and where the Church received the testimony of several of the apostles. Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius knew the apostles, and they quoted the New Testament books, and they rejected the works of heretics. They were eminently useful to me.
So I eagerly turned to the writers who were the spiritual heirs to these men — the authors of the next generation: Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Melito. And again I found Christians who witnessed to the Bible, preached the Bible, interpreted the Bible. Indeed, they talked about little more than the Bible.
Yet I began to notice that they read the Bible differently from the way I did as an evangelical Protestant. They read the Old Testament in light of the New, the New in light of the Old, and always with the liturgy in mind. They saw the sacraments, especially Baptism and the Eucharist, as the ordinary yet mysterious way that Christians entered the drama of the Bible. In the liturgy, they not only heard the story, they lived it. They received salvation in the way Jesus had provided for them, when he commanded his Apostles to “Do this in memory of me” and “Baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Fathers spoke constantly about the Scriptures. They had none of the study aids we have today in libraries, software, and seminaries. Nor could most of them have owned complete editions of the Bible. To have all the books of the Bible copied out would have been terrifically expensive, and would have required months of labor by a skilled scribe.
The Fathers possessed none of the advantages I possessed. Yet they knew the Bible as well as any professor or pastor I had ever met, and they exceeded everyone in their insights. From them — especially the earliest Fathers — I learned a covenant theology that was biblical and Catholic.
Having studied these early Christian texts, I never understood how some of my friends could place the Scriptures in opposition to the Fathers, as if the Fathers were actually opposed to anything in the Bible, as if we should have to choose one or another.
The Fathers preached biblical religion and they lived it, and they led me to find it in its fullness, in the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not the only…    …one who’s followed the Fathers down that road to glory. I’ve encountered countless cradle Catholics who have “rediscovered their roots,” and I’ve been accompanied by countless converts as well.
It was the Fathers who received the Scriptures on our behalf — on behalf of the Church. It was the Fathers who faithfully preserved the Scriptures — copying them out by hand over and over again, since there were no printing presses or electronic media. It was the Fathers who put their lives at risk by using their homes as a refuge for the Scriptures, when to do so was a capital offense.
In the coming months, we at the St. Paul Center will have many opportunities to celebrate these works of the Fathers. The last weekend in October, I’ll be speaking with my colleague Mike Aquilina (author of The Fathers of the Church) at a conference on “The Fathers and the Bible” at St. Lambert Parish in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. And the upcoming issue of our journal, Letter and Spirit, will examine the same theme of the Bible and the Fathers, with contributions by many renowned scholars.
You make this work possible — and so much more. You ensure that the “Faith of Our Fathers” is “living still,” in spite of all the obstacles our culture places in the way. I know these times are challenging for you, as they are for everyone (especially nonprofits!), so I am even more grateful for the support you give us: your prayers, your encouragement, your contributions.
If I don’t see you in Skokie this month, I’ll meet you — and the Fathers of the Church — in the pages of Letter and Spirit.

The Pillars of Unbelief: Six modern thinkers who’ve harmed the Christian mind — Part I: Niccolo Machiavelli (1496-1527)

SOURCE(1) The Pillars of Unbelief – Machiavelli 

By Dr Peter Kreeft

Machiavelli – inventor of “the new morality”

We need to talk about “enemies” of the faith because the life of faith is a real war. So say all the prophets, Apostles, martyrs and our Lord Himself.

Yet, we try to avoid talking about enemies. Why?

Partly because of our fear of confusing spiritual with material enemies; of hating the sinner along with the sin; of forgetting that “our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12).

But that fear is more unfounded today than ever in the past. No age has been more suspicious of militarism, more terrified of the horrors of physical war, than ours. And no age has been more prone to confuse the sin with the sinner, not by hating the sinner along with the sin but by loving the sin along with the sinner. We often use “compassion” as an equivalent for moral relativism.

We’re also soft. We don’t like to fight because fighting means suffering and sacrifice. War may not quite be hell, but it’s damned uncomfortable. And anyway, we’re not sure there’s anything worth fighting for. Perhaps we lack courage because we lack a reason for courage.

This is how we think as moderns, but not as Catholics. As Catholics we know life is spiritual warfare and that there are spiritual enemies. Once we admit that, the next step follows inevitably. It is essential in warfare to know your enemy. Otherwise, his spies pass by undetected. So this series is devoted to knowing our spiritual enemies in the struggle for the modern heart. We’ll discuss six modern thinkers who’ve had an enormous impact on our everyday life. They have also done great harm to the Christian mind.

Their names: Machiavelli, the inventor of “the new morality”; Kant, the subjectivizer of Truth; Nietzsche, the self-proclaimed “Anti-Christ”; Freud, the founder of the “sexual revolution”; Marx, the false Moses for the masses; and Sartre, the apostle of absurdity.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1496-1527) was the founder of modern political and social philosophy, and seldom in the history of thought has there been a more total revolution. Machiavelli knew how radical he was. He compared his work to Columbus’ as the discoverer of a new world, and to Moses’ as the leader of a new chosen people who would exit the slavery of moral ideas into a new promised land of power and practicality.

Machiavelli’s revolution can be summarized in six points.

For all previous social thinkers, the goal of political life was virtue. A good society was conceived as one in which people are good. There was no “double standard” between individual and social goodness-until Machiavelli. With him, politics became no longer the art of the good but the art of the possible. His influence on this point was enormous. All major social and political philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Dewey) subsequently rejected the goal of virtue, just as Machiavelli lowered the standard and nearly everyone began to salute the newly masted flag.

Machiavelli’s argument was that traditional morals were like the stars; beautiful but too distant to cast any useful light on our earthly path. We need instead man-made lanterns; in other words, attainable goals. We must take our bearings from the earth, not from the heavens; from what men and societies actually do, not from what they ought to do.

The essence of Machiavelli’s revolution was to judge the ideal by the actual rather than the actual by the ideal. An ideal is good for him, only if it is practical; thus, Machiavelli is the father of pragmatism. Not only does “the end justify the means” — any means that work — but the means even justify the end, in the sense that an end is worth pursuing only if there are practical means to attain it. In other words, the new summum bonum, or greatest good is success. (Machiavelli sounds like not only the first pragmatist but the first American pragmatist!)

Machiavelli didn’t just lower the moral standards; he abolished them. More than a pragmatist, he was an anti-moralist. The only relevance he saw morality having to success was to stand in its way. He taught that it was necessary for a successful prince “to learn how not to be good (“The Prince, ch. 15), how to break promises, to lie and cheat and steal (ch. 18).

Because of such shameless views, some of Machiavelli’s contemporaries saw “The Prince” as a book literally inspired by the devil. But modern scholars usually see it as drawn from science. They defend Machiavelli by claiming that he did not deny morality, but simply wrote a book about another subject, about what is rather than about what ought to be. They even praise him for his lack of hypocrisy, implying that moralism equals hypocrisy.

This is the common, modern misunderstanding of hypocrisy as not practicing what you preach. In that sense all men are hypocrites unless they stop preaching. Matthew Arnold defined hypocrisy as “the tribute vice pays to virtue.” Machiavelli was the first to refuse to pay even that tribute. He overcame hypocrisy not by raising practice to the level of preaching but of lowering preaching to the level of practice, by conforming the ideal to the real rather than the real to the ideal.

In fact, he really preaches: “Poppa, don’t preach!”-like the recent rock song. Can you imagine Moses saying, “Poppa, don’t preach!” to God on Mount Sinai? Or Mary to the angel? Or Christ in Gethsemane, instead of “Father, not my will but thine be done”? If you can, you are imagining hell, because our hope of heaven depends on those people having said to God, “Poppa, do preach!”

Actually, we have misdefined “hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is not the failure to practice what you preach but the failure to believe it. Hypocrisy is propaganda.

By this definition Machiavelli was almost the inventor of hypocrisy, for he was almost the inventor of propaganda. He was the first philosopher who hoped to convert the whole world through propaganda.

He saw his life as a spiritual warfare against the Church and its propaganda. He believed that every religion was a piece of propaganda whose influence lasted between 1,666 and 3,000 years. And he thought Christianity would end long before the world did, probably around the year 1666, destroyed either by barbarian invasions from the East (what is now Russia) or by a softening and weakening of the Christian West from within, or both. His allies were all lukewarm Christians who loved their earthly fatherland more than heaven, Caesar more than Christ, social success more than virtue. To them he addressed his propaganda. Total candor about his ends would have been unworkable, and confessed atheism fatal, so he was careful to avoid explicit heresy. But his was the destruction of “the Catholic fake” and his means was aggressive secularist propaganda. (One might argue, perhaps peevishly, that he was the father of the modern media establishment.)

He discovered that two tools were needed to command men’s behavior and thus to control human history: the pen and the sword, propaganda and arms. Thus both minds and bodies could be dominated, and domination was his goal. He saw all of human life and history as determined by only two forces: virtu (force) and fortuna (chance). The simple formula for success was the maximization of virtu and the minimization of fortuna. He ends “The Prince” with this shocking image: “Fortune is a woman, and if she is to be submissive it is necessary to beat and coerce her” (ch. 25). In other words, the secret of success is a kind of rape.

For the goal of control, arms are needed as well as propaganda, and Machiavelli is a hawk. He believed that “you cannot have good laws without good arms, and where there are good arms, good laws inevitably follow” (ch. 12). In other words justice “comes out of a barrel of a gun,” to adapt Mao Tse-tung’s phrase. Machiavelli believed that “all armed prophets have conquered and unarmed prophets have come to grief” (ch. 6). Moses, then, must have used arms which, the Bible failed to report; Jesus, the supreme unarmed prophet, came to grief; He was crucified and not resurrected. But His message conquered the world through propaganda, through intellectual arms. This was the war Machiavelli set out to fight.

Social relativism also emerged from Machiavelli’s philosophy. He recognized no laws above those of different societies and since these laws and societies originated in force rather than morality, the consequence is that morality is based on immorality. The argument went like this: Morality can only come from society, since there is no God and no God-given universal natural moral law. But every society originated in some revolution or violence. Roman society, e.g., the origin of Roman law, itself originated with Romulus’ murder of his brother Remus. All human history begins with Cain’s murder of Abel. Therefore, the foundation of law is lawlessness. The foundation of morality is immorality.

The argument is only as strong as its first premise, which-like all sociological relativism, including that which dominates the minds of writers and readers of nearly all sociology textbooks today-is really implicit atheism.

Machiavelli criticized Christian and classical ideals of charity by a similar argument. He asked: How do you get the goods you give away? By selfish competition. All goods are gotten at another’s expense: If my slice of the pie is so much more, others’ must be that much less. Thus unselfishness depends on selfishness.

The argument presupposes materialism, for spiritual goods do not diminish when shared or given away, and do not deprive another when I acquire them. The more money I get, the less you have and the more I give away, the less I have. But love, truth, friendship and wisdom increase rather than decrease when shared. The materialist simply does not see this, or care about it.

Machiavelli believed we are all inherently selfish. There was for him no such thing as an innate conscience or moral instinct. So the only way to make men behave morally was by force, in fact totalitarian force, to compel them to act contrary to their nature. The origins of modern totalitarianism also go back to Machiavelli.

If a man is inherently selfish, then only fear and not love can effectively move him. Thus Machiavelli wrote, “It is far better to be feared than loved…[for] men worry less about doing an injury to one who makes himself loved than to one who makes himself feared. The bond of love is one which men, wretched creatures that they are, break when it is to their advantage to do so, but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishment which is always effective” (ch. 17).

The most amazing thing about this brutal philosophy is that it won the modern mind, though only by watering down or covering up its darker aspects. Machiavelli’s successors toned down his attack on morality and religion, but they did not return to the idea of a personal God or objective and absolute morality as the foundation of society. Machiavelli’s narrowing down came to appear as a widening out. He simply lopped off the top story of the building of life; no God, only man; no soul, only body; no spirit, only matter; no ought, only is. Yet this squashed building appeared (through propaganda) as a Tower of Babel, this confinement appeared as a liberation from the “confinements” of traditional morality, like taking your belt out a notch.

Satan is not fairy tale; he is a brilliant strategist and psychologist and he is utterly real. Machiavelli’s line of argument is one of Satan’s most successful lies to this day. Whenever we are tempted, he is using this lie to make evil appear as good and desirable; to make his slavery appear as freedom and “the glorious freedom of the sons of God” appear as slavery. The “Father of Lies” loves to tell not little lies but The Big Lie, to turn the truth upside down. And he gets away with it-unless we blow the cover of the Enemy’s spies.

Born Again Catholics. — Are Catholics Saved, by having been Born Again?

HAT TIP: Thinking Catholic Strategic Center

Readings for Sunday, September 25, 2011, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ez 18:25-28
Ps 25:4-9
Phil 2:1-11
Matt 21:28-32

I was in the cemetery, standing at the head of the casket, leading the graveside prayers for my life-long Catholic parishioner. I decided, since we had already offered a full funeral Mass, to abbreviate this service and leave some time for the Protestant minister who had been invited by a daughter of the deceased. Looking up, I noticed that he had appeared, and stood opposite me. I nodded, stepped back, and he began by reading a passage from the Bible. He then told us, a mostly Catholic group, how at the daughter’s request he had visited the deceased in the hospital and asked him if he had been saved. The man answered, no, he never had known how to do it. The minister told him how, and the man did, and so the minister wanted to assure us that our departed had been saved, and therefore we should know he was with the Lord in heaven.

One couldn’t help but feel that the opposing team had scored. But that may not have been the reverend’s intent. In fact he seemed ill at ease, never looked at me, and left promptly. But, what about it? Are Catholics saved? Or are we, kept in ignorance by the Whore of Babylon, doomed to hell because we have not accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior?

If someone asks you if you are “saved”, or they might say “born again”, they are probably operating out of the “born again Christian” theology, familiar to anyone who has seen Billy Graham on TV. According to this theology we are all sinners, doomed to hell unless we repent of sin and turn to Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. At that point you are saved, and forever saved. You did nothing, and in fact can do nothing to earn God’s mercy, and so you cannot lose that mercy either once you’ve received it. In summary, salvation is by faith alone, not by works, and once saved always saved.

The Catholic faith is that, true, we are sinners, and we cannot earn God’s mercy; salvation is a grace, a free gift; but it is a gift we must respond to and put into action. Salvation is more like a life-long journey of many decisions than a single moment’s decision; the grace of God making it all possible, but our acting on that possibility being part of the process. To say “I am now saved, and am forever saved” is presumptuous. And there are many Bible passages to support the Catholic view. I will quote the briefest I can think of. It’s in Paul’s Letter to the Galations, where he is arguing that observance of the Jewish ceremonial law is not required for salvation, and he says:

”For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” – Gal 5:6

St. Paul is the great authority quoted by the “faith alone” crowd, and he said it’s all a matter of faith working through love. He could have added here what he made plain elsewhere, that both faith and the works of love are made possible by God’s grace, so there are no grounds for boasting.

But let’s not plunge headlong into the whole faith vs. works debate. The born-again Christian wants to know if you have been born again, and the honest answer is “yes!”, because every Catholic has been baptized. Here you could quote what Jesus said to Nicodemus, recorded in the Gospel of John, ch. 3:

”Truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” – Jn 3:5

And this is what the Catholic Church has always taught, that the Sacrament of water baptism forgives sin and confers the gift of the Holy Spirit, adopting the baptized person into the life of God merited for us by Christ.

Objection: “But you were only a baby and didn’t know what was happening, much less accept Jesus for yourself.”

Your answer: Exactly! That’s how little Catholics believe that we earn salvation by what we do. God doesn’t even wait for that little child to grow up and reach the age of reason and make his own personal faith commitment. We take seriously what you claim to believe, that our relationship with God is God’s initiative, not our own. Christ did not wait for any personal recognition or affirmation on the part of children before he said, “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for it is to just such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

But your born-again questioner is wanting some evidence that a Catholic truly repents of sin and personally accepts Jesus as Lord and savior. So tell them about the sacrament of Confirmation, when the candidate reaffirms, on her own volition, the faith commitment made for her at baptism, and consider the annual Easter renewal of baptismal promises that everyone in church is guided through:

Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children? I do.
Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin? I do.
Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness? I do.

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? I do.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father? I do.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and lfe everlasting? I do.

Do you mean it? Okay, you have just repented of sin and professed faith that Jesus is Lord. If this is what the born-again Christian is looking for, you’ve just been born again.

But no need to wait for Easter. What does a Catholic do at every Sunday Mass? He or she starts by confessing that he is an unworthy sinner, has sinned through his own fault, in thought and word, in what he has done and failed to do, and he looks to God’s mercy, not his own efforts, for salvation. “May God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.”

Does your born-again friend need more evidence? Stay on through Mass until the priest raises the Eucharist before the people and says – and here I will use the new Missal translation because it is closer to the Bible story of the centurion who trusted Jesus with faith – the priest says, to all present:

”Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

Look at Jesus, look to Jesus, the Lamb-Victim sent by God to merit our salvation by his sacrifice on the cross. And the Catholic responds:

”Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

“Lord, I am not worthy”. Does that sound like someone standing on the merits of their own good works?

“Only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. Who would say that but someone who looks to Jesus, their savior, to give what they cannot give themselves?

Is more evidence needed that the devout, believing Catholic has been born again and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior? There is more evidence to give, but this is surely enough for any one of us, being visited and questioned by a well-meaning minister, to answer, honestly and with conviction:

”Yes. And if you only knew, you’d be Catholic too.”

END OF POST

Full Text/ Immigration and the ‘Next America’ perspectives from our history

The following is an adapted address given by the Archbishop of Los Angeles at the Napa Institute on 28 July 2011.

Our political debate about immigration in America frustrates me. Often I think we are just talking around the edges of the real issues. Both sides of this argument are inspired by a beautiful, patriotic idea of America’s history and values. But lately I’ve been starting to wonder: What America are we really talking about?

America is changing and it has been changing for a long time. The forces of globalization are changing our economy and George Washington (1732-1799), First President of the United Statesforcing us to rethink the scope and purpose of our government. Threats from outside enemies are changing our sense of national sovereignty. America is changing on the inside, too.

Our culture is changing. We have a legal structure that allows, and even pays for, the killing of babies in the womb. Our courts and legislatures are redefining the natural institutions of marriage and the family. We have an elite culture — in government, the media and academia — that is openly hostile to religious faith.

America is becoming a fundamentally different country. It is time for all of us to recognize this — no matter what our position is on the political issue of immigration. We need to recognize that immigration is part of a larger set of questions about our national identity and destiny. What is America? What does it mean to be an American? Who are we as a people, and where are heading as a country? What will the “next America” look like?

As Catholics who are faithful citizens in America we have to answer these questions within a larger frame of reference. As Catholics, we have to always remember that there is more to the life of any nation than the demands of the moment in politics, economics and culture. We have to consider all of those demands and the debates about them in light of God’s plan for the nations.

This is a big challenge for us in this culture. Our culture pushes us to “privatize” our faith, to separate our faith from our life in society. We always have to resist that temptation. We are called to live our faith in our businesses, homes and communities, and in our participation in public life. That means we have to bring a Catholic faith perspective to this debate about immigration. We cannot just think about this issue as Democrats or Republicans or as liberals or conservatives.

I think we all know the teachings of our Church on immigration. What we need to understand better is how to see immigration in light of America’s history and purposes, as seen through the perspective of our Catholic faith. When we understand immigration from this perspective we can see that immigration is not a problem for America. It’s an opportunity. Immigration is a key to our American renewal.

One of the problems we have today is that we have lost the sense of America’s national “story”. If our people know our history at all, what they know is incomplete. And when we don’t know the whole story, we end up with the wrong assumptions about American identity and culture.

The American story that most of us know is set in New England. It is the story of the pilgrims and the Mayflower, the first Thanksgiving, and John Winthrop’s sermon about a “city upon a hill”.

It is the story of great men like Washington, Jefferson and Madison. It’s the story of great documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. It is a beautiful story. It is also true. Every American should know these characters and the ideals and principles they fought for. From this story we learn that our American identity and culture are rooted in essentially Christian beliefs about the dignity of the human person.

But the story of the founding fathers and the truths they held to be self-evident is not the whole story about America. The rest of the story starts more than a century before the pilgrims. It starts in the 1520s in Florida and in the 1540s here in California.

It is the story not of colonial settlement and political and economic opportunity. It is the story of exploration and evangelization. This story is not Anglo-Protestant but Hispanic-Catholic. It is centered, not in New England but in Nueva España — New Spain — at opposite corners of the continent.

From this story we learn that before this land had a name its inhabitants were being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The people of this land were called Christians before they were called Americans. And they were called this name in the Spanish, French and English tongues.

From this history, we learn that long before the Boston Tea Party, Catholic missionaries were celebrating the holy Mass on the soil of this continent. Catholics founded America’s oldest settlement, in St Augustine, Florida, in 1565. Immigrant missionaries were naming this continent’s rivers and mountains and territories for saints, sacraments and articles of the faith.

We take these names for granted now. But our American geography testifies that our nation was born from the encounter with Jesus Christ. Sacramento (“Holy Sacrament”). Las Cruces (“the Cross”).Corpus Christi (“Body of Christ”). Even the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, named for the precious blood of Christ.

The 19th-century historian John Gilmary Shea said it beautifully. Before there were houses in this land, there were altars: “Mass was said to hallow the land and draw down the blessing of heaven before the first step was taken to rear a human habitation. The altar was older than the hearth”.

This is the missing piece of American history. And today more than ever, we need to know this heritage of holiness and service — especially as American Catholics. Along with Washington and Jefferson, we need to know the stories of these great apostles of America. We need to know the French missionaries like Mother Joseph and the Jesuits St Isaac Jogues and Father Jacques Marquette, who came down from Canada to bring the faith to the northern half of our country. We need to know the Hispanic missionaries like the Franciscan Magin Catalá and the Jesuit Father Eusebio Kino, who came up from Mexico to evangelize the Southwest and the Northwest territories.

We should know the stories of people like Venerable Antonio Margil. He was a Franciscan priest and is one of my favorite figures from the first evangelization of America. Venerable Antonio left his homeland in Spain to come to the New World in 1683. He told his mother he was coming here — because “millions of souls [were] lost for want of priests to dispel the darkness of unbelief”.

People used to call him “the Flying Padre”. He traveled 40 or 50 miles every day, walking barefoot. Fray Antonio had a Blessed Junípero Serra (1713-1784), evangelizer in Californiatruly continental sense of mission. He established churches in Texas and Louisiana, and also in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico.

He was a priest of great courage and love. He escaped death many times at the hands of the native peoples he came to evangelize. Once he faced a firing squad of a dozen Indians armed with bows and arrows. Another time he was almost burned alive at the stake.

I came to know about Fray Antonio when I was the Archbishop of San Antonio. He preached there in 1719-1720 and founded the San José Mission there. He used to talk about San Antonio as the center of the evangelization of America. He said: “San Antonio… will be the headquarters of all the missions which God our Lord will establish… that in his good time all of this New World may be converted to his holy Catholic faith”.

This is the real reason for America, when we consider our history in light of God’s plan for the nations. America is intended to be a place of encounter with the living Jesus Christ. This was the motivation of the missionaries who came here first. America’s national character and spirit are deeply marked by the Gospel values they brought to this land. These values are what make the founding documents of our government so special.

Although founded by Christians, America has become home to an amazing diversity of cultures, religions and ways of life. This diversity flourishes precisely because our nation’s founders had a Christian vision of the human person, freedom, and truth.

G. K. Chesterton said famously that “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed”. And that “creed”, as he recognized, is fundamentally Christian. It is the basic American belief that all men and women are created equal — with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Every other nation in history has been established on the basis of common territory and ethnicity — the ties of land and kinship. America instead is based on this Christian ideal, on this creed that reflects the amazing universalism of the Gospel. As a result, we have always been a nation of nationalities. E pluribus unum. One people made from peoples of many nations, races, and creeds.

Throughout our history, problems have always arisen when we have taken this American creed for granted. Or when we have tried to limit it in some way. That’s why it is essential that today we remember the missionary history of America — and rededicate ourselves to the vision of America’s founding “creed”.

When we forget our country’s roots in the Hispanic-Catholic mission to the new world, we end up with distorted ideas about our national identity. We end up with an idea that Americans are descended from only white Europeans and that our culture is based only on the individualism, work ethic and rule of law that we inherited from our Anglo-Protestant forebears.

When that has happened in the past it has led to those episodes in our history that we are least proud of — the mistreatment of Native Americans; slavery; the recurring outbreaks of nativism and anti-Catholicism; the internment of Japanese Americans during World War ii; the misadventures of “manifest destiny”.

There are, of course, far more complicated causes behind these moments in our history. But at the root, I think we can see a common factor — a wrong-headed notion that “real Americans” are of some particular race, class, religion or ethnic background.

I worry that in today’s political debates over immigration we are entering into a new period of nativism. The intellectual justification for this new nativism was set out a few years ago in an influential book by the late Samuel Huntington of Harvard, called Who Are We?. He made a lot of sophisticated-sounding arguments, but his basic argument was that American identity and culture are threatened by Mexican immigration.

Authentic American identity “was the product of the distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers of America in the 17th and 18th centuries”, according to Huntington. By contrast, Mexicans’ values are rooted in a fundamentally incompatible “culture of Catholicism” which, Huntington argued, does not value self-initiative or the work ethic, and instead encourages passivity and an acceptance of poverty.

These are old and familiar nativist claims, and they are easy to discredit. One could point to the glorious legacy of Hispanic literature and art, or to Mexican-Americans’ and Hispanic-Americans’ accomplishments in business, government, medicine and other areas. Unfortunately, today we hear ideas like Huntington’s being repeated on cable TV and talk radio — and sometimes even by some of our political leaders.

There is no denying significant differences between Hispanic-Catholic and Anglo-Protestant cultural assumptions. This kind of bigoted thinking stems from an incomplete understanding of American history. Historically, both cultures have a rightful claim to a place in our national “story” — and in the formation of an authentic American identity and national character.

I believe American Catholics have a special duty today to be the guardians of the truth about the American spirit and our national identity. I believe it falls to us to be witnesses to a new kind of American patriotism.

We are called to bring out all that is noble in the American spirit. We are also called to challenge those who would diminish or “downsize” America’s true identity. Since I came to California, I have been thinking a lot about Bl. Junípero Serra, the Franciscan immigrant who came from Spain via Mexico to evangelize this great state.

Bl. Junípero loved the native peoples of this continent. He learned their local languages, customs and beliefs. He translated the Gospel and the prayers and teachings of the faith so that everyone could hear the mighty works of God in their own native tongue! He used to trace the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads and say to them, Amar a Dios! Love God!

This is a good way to understand our duty as Catholics in our culture today. We need to find a way to “translate” the Gospel of love for the people of our times. We need to remind our brothers and sisters of the truths taught by Bl. Junípero and his brother missionaries. That we are all children of the same Father in heaven. That our Father in heaven does not make some nationalities or racial groups to be “inferior” or less worthy of his blessings.

Catholics need to lead our country to a new spirit of empathy. We need to help our brothers and sisters to start seeing the strangers among us for who they truly are — and not according to political or ideological categories or definitions rooted in our own fears.

This is difficult, I know. I know it is a particular challenge to see the humanity of those immigrants who are here illegally. But the truth is that very few people “choose” to leave their homelands. Emigration is almost always forced upon people by the dire conditions they face in their lives.

Most of the men and women who are living in America without proper documentation have traveled hundreds even thousands of miles. They have left everything behind, risked their safety and their lives. They have done this, not for their own comfort or selfish interests. They have done this to feed their loved ones. To be good mothers and fathers. To be loving sons and daughters.

These immigrants — no matter how they came here — are people of energy and aspiration. They are people who are not afraid of hard work or sacrifice. They are nothing like the people Prof. Huntington and others are describing! These men and women have courage and the other virtues. The vast majority of them believe in Jesus Christ and love our Catholic Church, They share traditional American values of faith, family and community.

This is why I believe our immigrant brothers and sisters are the key to American renewal. And we all know that America is in need of renewal — economic and political, but also spiritual, moral and cultural renewal. I believe these men and women who are coming to this country will bring a new, youthful entrepreneurial spirit of hard work to our economy. I also believe they will help renew the soul of America.

In his last book, Memory and Identity, written the year he died, Bl. John Paul II said: “The history of all nations is called to take its place in the history of salvation”. We must look at immigration in the context of America’s need for renewal. And we need to consider both immigration and American renewal in light of God’s plan for salvation and the history of the nations.

The promise of America is that we can be one nation where men and women from every race, creed and national background may live as brothers and sisters. Each one of us is a child of that promise. If we trace the genealogies of almost everyone in America, the lines of descent will lead us out beyond our borders to some foreign land where each of our ancestors originally came from.

This inheritance comes to American Catholics now as a gift and as a duty. We are called to make our own contributions to this nation — through the way we live our faith in Jesus Christ as citizens. Our history shows us that America was born from the Church’s mission to the nations. The “next America” will be determined by the choices we make as Christian disciples and as American citizens. By our attitudes and actions, by the decisions we make, we are writing the next chapters of our American story.

May Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of the Americas, obtain for us the courage we need to do what our good Lord requires.

  José H. Gomez
August 11, 2011
[tags: America | Migrants]

The Truth About Mary and Scripture — Video

The Mother of God is a gift from the Cross in a world reduced to a desert because of its want of love…

A HISTORY OF THE BIBLE Victor R. Claveau

Mo and Chuck—It is my belief that until every Christian abides by the prayer, and thus the will, of Jesus Christ on the night he was betrayed, “May they be one Father, even as you and I are one” Christianity stands in scandal within the world. 30,000 denominations with varying doctrines does not reflect or offer souls fully that unity in love that the Most Holy Trinity wills to provide men (souls) in their journey to Absolute Truth, Who is God, Jesus Christ. As per our work discussions some weeks back, the following article “A History of the Bible” is offered as a means to continue our dialogue on many issues, but above all, as a means of following the will of Jesus for His disciples, and thus, His Church. I welcome your constructive responses and those of your Pastor(s) if they so decide… Love to you both, J

(Transcribed from a recorded lecture)

Where did the Bible come from? Who decided which books would make up the canon of Scripture? Why there is a difference between the Catholic and Protestant Bibles and how did this all come about?

In order to understand the answers to these questions it is necessary to return to the Age of the Patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; about nineteen centuries before Christ. You might remember the story of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham, because of his special calling by God, and his response to this call, is called the Father of the Jewish people. God’s promise to Abraham was that he would have numerous descendants, thus making him the prime ancestor of all true believers. Isaac was the solemnly promised son of Abraham and Sarah. Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebecca and is mentioned in the ancestry of Jesus (Lk. 3:23).

Jacob had 12 sons, from whom the twelve tribes of Israel sprang. Of Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph was favored over the rest and as a result was envied by his brothers. His brothers considered killing him, but in the end they sold him into slavery to a passing Egyptian caravan.

Once in Egypt, Joseph was sold at the slave market to Putiphar, head of the Pharaoh’s armies. Joseph was a very bright young man, well educated for his time, and as a result he was eventually placed in charge of Putiphar’s household. Well, it happened that Putiphar’s wife took a shine to Joseph, because he was a very handsome young man. When she made advances toward Joseph, he rebuffed her. She complained to Putiphar and accused Joseph of showing her grave disrespect. As a result, Joseph was cast into prison. It was there he met two important people in the service of the Pharaoh.

When Joseph correctly interpreted the dreams of the two men, he came to the attention of the Pharaoh, who also had been troubled by a dream. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, predicting seven years of abundant harvest and then seven years of famine. In order to prepare for the time of famine, Pharaoh placed Joseph as the governor of Egypt. As governor, Joseph had full charge and anything and everything had to flow through him. During the rich years, Joseph instituted a food rationing system and stored huge quantities of wheat and other food. When the years of scarcity came, he was easily able to feed the people.

During the seven years of famine, the Hebrew tribes, like so many others, turned to Egypt in search of food. Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to purchase an emergency supply of grain. Because Joseph dispensed the food rations, the brothers had to appear before him. Joseph recognized his brothers, eventually revealed himself to them and provided for their needs. He requested the brothers return to their father and bring him and his entire family to the safety of Egypt.

Jacob and his family, seventy members in all, journeyed from the land of Canaan. “Thus Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly.” (Gen. 47:27-28)

In the beginning of their sojourn in Egypt, the Hebrews were few in number. But as a productive people, they enjoyed the favor of the Pharaohs. After living in Egypt for 430 years, the number of the Jews had grown from the original seventy to more than 600,000 (Num. 1:45). By then, the descendants of Jacob were viewed as a threat to the sovereignty of Egypt. Little by little they were placed under submission and finally were made slaves. In addition, Pharaoh decreed that all newborn male Israelites were to be killed. The objective in this decision was that the Hebrew women would eventually have only Egyptians to wed and the land titles would eventually return to Egyptian control. The account of this oppression and forced labor of the Hebrew people, under the rule of Ramesses II (BC 1301-1234), is most likely a summary of a long history or the narration of its last phases (Ex. 1:8-225:6-14).

Next in the series of events came Moses, who was God’s anointed. Under God’s direction, Moses had an extraordinary and transforming experience on mount Horeb, and became the instrument of God’s plan to rescue the Hebrews from the oppression of Pharaoh Ramesses II (Ex. 3:1-6). The Bible tells of God’s visiting upon the Egyptians a series of divine punishments in the form of ten plagues.

The drama came to a conclusion with the Passover (Ex.12:23-27Is. 31:5). The word Passover signifies the passage of Yahweh (God), who passed over the Israelite houses and struck down the first born of the Egyptians (Exod.11:5). This, the final plague, took the life of Pharaoh’s son. Pharaoh then relented and allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt under the leadership of Moses. The Bible does not provide exact information concerning the time in which the Exodus of the Israelites took place and, understandably, Egypt has left no reference to these facts. It is safe to assume the Exodus began sometime around BC 1280-1230.

For 40 years Moses led the people through the desert on their way to Israel and helped shape them into a nation that could live under the laws of God. Moses oversaw the creation and development of the first Israelite systems of worship, the anointing of the family line of his brother Aaron as priests, and the creation of a legal system of governance for the community.

There came a time in the history of the Jews when Greek rather than Hebrew became the primary language. We will need to take a brief look at the history of the Jews from the time of King Solomon to the time of Alexander the Great, and the circumstances that led to the necessity of a Greek translation of the Sacred Scriptures.

This period encompassed the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, the understanding of which is crucial to canonical history.

The history of Israel from the death of Moses to the reign of King Solomon (BC 967-928) — a period of 250-300 years — is a record of cyclical periods of war and peace. For the most part, the Jews of the period remained faithful to the commands of God. The beginning of religious erosion can be traced to King Solomon. His private life signaled a progressive moral decline and infidelity to God; he formed a harem for himself of foreign and idolatrous women, and to please them he built pagan temples in Jerusalem.

In approximately BC 930, the country was split into two kingdoms, Judah in the south and Israel in the north. The Jews of the Northern Kingdom returned to the worship of idols, while those in the south remained faithful to God, until the reign of Manasseh.

Manasseh, King of Judah (BC 697-643) was the most impious of Judah’s kings. He was the son of Hezekiah, who reigned from 716 to 687 BC, and the grandson of the prophet Isaiah. Manasseh ascended to the throne at age 12 and reigned for 55 years (2 Kings 21:1). His name means “he who forgot,” in that he forgot his God and indulged in idolatry, murder and other abominable acts.

After his father’s death, Manasseh introduced alien rites into the Temple  (II Kings 21:3). Side by side with the altar of God, the ancient idols of Baal and Astarte reappeared. Worship was paid to the god Shemesh 2 Kings 23:11), and to the Assyrian goddess Ishtar. Altars were set up in the Temple of Jerusalem for these divinities; the Assyrian cult was copied with such exactness that, either within the Temple or adjacent to it, pavilions were built for the sacred prostitution of men and women (2 Kings 23:7).

The Canaanite gods were likewise welcomed, including hungry Molech (king), to whom it seems, Manasseh offered his own son as a holocaust (2 Kings 21:6) — not on the occasion of some impending misfortune, but solely out of devotion.

To the south of ancient Jerusalem is a precipitous ravine, which stretches down and joins the Valley of Kidron. In Jesus time, when Jesus spoke of hell, he used the term Gehenna, which actually comes from Gei Ben-Hinnom — Ravine of the Son of Hinnom — probably named after a man called Hinnom. It was in this valley; at a place called Tophet (the place of abomination) that Manasseh and the wicked inhabitants of Jerusalem went to worship idols and to sacrifice their sons and daughters. In fact, the valley of Hinnom was set-aside in Molech’s honor. During Jesus time, the valley was used as the Jerusalem’s garbage dump. It was a place of corruption, stench, rotting flesh, and fire.

This god, Molech, had the head of a calf with outstretched arms and a hollow body. In the body they placed wood, which they would burn. There were seven fences surrounding the god and what you brought as a sacrifice would determine how close you actually got to the god.

If you brought a fowl or bird you could enter the first gate. A goat would get you through the second gate and be that much closer to the god. If you brought a sheep you could enter the third gate. If you brought a calf you could go to the fourth gate. A cow would get you to the fifth gate. An ox would allow you to go to the sixth gate. But if you brought your own child to be sacrificed, you could go right up to Molech, and there the arms red-hot arms of Molech would accept the child sacrifice.

The abomination of child sacrifice and desecration of the Temple precincts went on for about 100 years. Not only was Solomon involved, but also his son Manasseh, who was considered to be one of the worst of all the Hebrew kings to reign over Israel. He tried to expunge the name of God from the Torah and continued the pagan rituals and sacrifices – especially to Moloch.

The next king, or son of Manasseh, was named Amon. He was the third of the kings to allow worship to Molech. Amon decided he wanted to destroy all the Torah scrolls, in order that there would be absolutely no reference to God and the kingdom would be completely pagan. Josiah was the next one in the royal line. Now Josiah tried to bring the people back to the proper worship of Yahweh, the one true God. But after so many years of profanation of the Temple and the murder of the Prophets who God sent to warn and bring them back to the proper path, God allowed Palestine and Jerusalem to be invaded by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 597. The Bible recounts that the Temple of Solomon was destroyed in 586.

Almost the entire population of Jerusalem was sent into slavery. Scripture tells us in 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2ndChronicles that a small remnant of vinedressers and farmers were left behind to till the land.

Babylon at that time was the greatest city in the world. It was most prosperous, cosmopolitan, and had great libraries. There were surveyed streets, and four story buildings. Set between the Tigris and Euphrates, they used the rivers to irrigate the lands.

The Jews were brought to Babylon. They were allowed freedom to worship as they pleased. When the Bible refers to the “whore of Babylon”, it is in reference to this period of history when the Jews are in captivity in Babylon, because they again had to endure ritual prostitution. Every woman had to prostitute herself in the temple at least once in her lifetime. There were hundreds of altars and pagan shrines throughout the city.

The key person during this time was Ezekiel. Ezekiel was captured in 597 when the first invasion of Israel took place. He began to bring back the love of God to the Hebrew people. When the Bible talks about a generation it literally means forty years, because the life expectancy was forty years. It is estimated that less than 2% of the population lived beyond the age of fifty years. As the Israelites were in captivity for 70 years, you can safely assume that the vast majority of them died during captivity.

When people immigrate to foreign lands they become acclimated to the language of the people in that area. The second generation of immigrants usually speaks the language of their adopted country. When the Jewish people left Jerusalem and Palestine, they were Hebrew speaking. The language of Babylon and most of the known world was Greek. At the end of the 70 years in captivity, the Bible tells us that Cyrus, the king of Persia invaded Babylon and eventually freed the Jews. He allowed them to take all that had been stolen from the Temple inJerusalem, so that they could rebuild it. Approximately 50,000 Greek speaking, Hebrews left Babylon to return to the holy land.

A number of Hebrews did not return to Israel, but went on to Northern Egypt. History records a substantial Jewish population in Egypt at the time of Alexander the Great. On the outermost tip of the Nile delta, Alexander built the city that was to bear his name. Alexander decreed the Jews in Egypt were to have the same rights as were accorded to his own people.

The decree led to the city becoming one of the great centers of Jewish life. The ancient historian, Philo, wrote that as many as one million Jews lived in Egypt. It has been estimated at the time of Alexander, 40 percent of the world’s Jews lived in Alexandria. It was the largest concentration of Jews in the world — Rome was second and Jerusalem was third.

The people who remained in Jerusalem erected an altar stone in 536 and began to offer sacrifices to God. They began to rebuild the Temple in 520. This was a very abbreviatedTemple as it only took them five years to build. They continued to expand the Temple over the next generations.

The First Book of Maccabees continues the story, beginning with a history of the conquests of Alexander the Great. When Alexander lay dying he divided the empire among six of his most favored and trusted friends. They soon began to fight among themselves for control of the empire. There were wars for over 20 years. But by 300 B.C. there were only three kingdoms left. We have the Macedonian Kingdom, the Seleucid Kingdom and the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. There were 15 Ptolemaic Pharaohs who ruled for about 150 years, up until the time of Cleopatra.

The first Pharaoh was Ptolemy Soter. His son Ptolemy Philadelphus wanted to make Alexandria the greatest learning center in the world. Philadelphus took great pride in the fact the library in Alexandria possessed the finest collections of books in the world. The library was part of the Mouseion — “House of the Muses,” or house of arts and sciences. The Mouseion was a complex of buildings that housed study rooms, lecture halls and administrative offices where scholars could do research and teach.

The library was divided into two parts: the “the library within the palace” (the Brucheion) and the smaller “library outside the palace” (the Serepheum). By BC 250, the Brucheion contained 90,000 single volumes and 400,000 volumes containing more than one work. The Serepheum, which served the ordinary citizens and students, contained 42,800 volumes.

But there was one document that the library did not possess, the Torah. It was for the benefit of Greek-speaking Jews, and for inclusion in the Alexandrine library, that the Greek translation of the Scriptures known as the Septuagint  (LXX) was made.

It came to pass that sometime between BC 250-200 devout Jews in Egypt began the translation of the Torah into Greek. This translation was called the Septuagint. The name Septuagint is Latin for “seventy,” from the tradition there were 72 scholars who did the translating work. A second possible explanation for the title is the 70 elders inJerusalem supposedly approved the translation.

This translation was for Jews — as well as Christians — one of the most significant events in history. What had been previously known only in the sanctuary, only in Hebrew and only to the nation of Israel, was now made available and understandable for people of other languages and races. The carefully guarded door was thrown open as the Septuagint unlocked the treasures of the Hebrew religion to the entire Gentile world.

The legend of the origin of the Septuagint is told in an unauthenticated letter attributed to Aristeas of Alexandria to his brother Philocrates. As “Aristeas” tells the story, Demetrius of Phaleron (BC 285-246), a known statesman, philosopher and librarian of Ptolemy Philadelphus, was responsible for the building up of the library at Alexandria. For this purpose he desired copies of the Jewish Law.

Philadelphus sent envoys, including Aristeas, to the High Priest Eleazar in Jerusalem, requesting copies of the Torah. In response, Eleazar selected seventy-two rabbis, who would act as translators, to accompany the books of the Law to Egypt. The translators set to work on the island of Pharos off Alexandria, at the foot of one of the seven wonders of the world — the three hundred foot-high lighthouse, which Ptolemy Philadelphus had erected as a warning for shipping near and far, so the translators could work free of interruption. They worked no more than nine hours a day and, by continued comparison of one another’s work, completed the task in seventy-two days to the satisfaction of the Jews of Alexandria and Demetrius, and to the satisfaction of the Pharaoh.

The narrative contained in the letter of Aristeas , told and retold by Philo, Josephus, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenæus and a long line of Christian and Jewish writers, may be entirely fictitious. Yet it has been argued this version of the facts is not improbable. The legend was further elaborated with exaggerated elements: Each of the translators, after intensive, isolated labor, arrived at identical translations. The embellishments to the narrative were meant to demonstrate the inspired character of the translation.

The letter of Aristeas puts the Septuagint translation at the end of the first half of the third century BC. Modern scholars believe the translation was a composite work completed by the second half of the second century BC. Although the origin of the Septuagint may be shrouded in history, it was the work that became the Bible of the early Church — so much so that the Jews who continued in Judaism required new versions (e.g., the translation of Aquila) they could call their own. Christians understood the earlier translation, the Septuagint, in Christian terms. In other words, Christians used the Septuagint to show the prefiqurement of Christ.

As to the other Hebrew books, the prophetical and historical, it was natural that the Alexandrine Jews should desire to read the remaining books, and they gradually were translated into Greek. It is not possible to accurately determine the precise time those translations were made, but it is certain the Law, the Prophets and at least part of the other books existed in Greek before the year BC 130.

By BC 100, a translation of all the Hebrew books had been completed. The entire collection of Scripture — those books originally written in Hebrew and those written in Greek — came to be known as the Septuagint.

The Septuagint is the most ancient translation of the Old Testament. Jews made use of it long before the Christian era. Because the language of the early Christian community was Greek, the Septuagint became its Bible. At the time of Christ, it was recognized as a legitimate text and was employed in Palestine even by the rabbis.

It is certain neither Christ nor the apostles ever challenged the value of the Septuagint. That the Apostles and evangelists used the Septuagint is not in question. Of approximately three hundred fifty quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament, about three hundred are direct quotations from the Septuagint, and the remaining are paraphrases, especially in regard to the prophecies. Matthew, in his gospel, quoted the Septuagint 130 times.

The next significant period in our chronology of the canon was the time of Alexander Jannæus. Alexander Jannæus was the first king since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. He just simply crowned himself king and ruled from 103 to 76 B.C.

There were three religious groups at the time – the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the Essenes.

The Pharisees were a distinct religious group that arose in the Jewish religious community in the second century BC. They called themselves “comrades” in the Hebrew language, but were known at the time of Christ by an Aramaic word, which means “those who separate themselves.” They advocated practicing the Mosaic Law in strictest adherence to every detail, although in many instances they held themselves above the Law.

The Sadducees also arose in the second century BC. The Greek name, derived from the Aramaic, means, “to be just.” They collaborated with the Romans during the occupation ofIsrael so they could achieve a dominant place in the Sanhedrin, the highest court of justice in Jerusalem. John the Baptist denounced the Sadducees (Matt. 3:7), and Jesus warned his disciples about both the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matt. 16:6-11). The Sadducees were not only antagonistic to Christ, but became the chief persecutors of the Apostles and the early Christians (Acts 4:1).

The Pharisees and the Sadducees differed on how to interpret the Torah, which was the basic authority of Jewish life. Thus the Jewish people became divided on national, economic and religious policies.

The Sadducees were in favor of a strict interpretation of the Torah; that is, they were willing to abide by the Torah’s written word — no more, no less.

The Pharisees were for a liberal interpretation of the Torah; that is, they considered the Torah to be a body of principles and guidelines or illustrations of these principles.

The Pharisees also believed in an oral Torah or teaching that had been handed down from Moses, generation to generation. In one sense, the Pharisees made Judaism much easier by regarding biblical laws as principles. This enabled them to amend many practices to conform more closely to the changing needs of their society. But in other respects, Pharisaic Judaism was much more difficult to live by, because it insisted upon knowledge and piety in every conceivable action.

The third religious group was the Essenes, “the pious ones” or “the penitents.” Active from the second century BC to the end of the first century AD, the Essenes were a communalistic sect or brotherhood whose main group resided in a monastery located at Khirbet Qumran, on the western shore of the Dead Sea about two miles south of the Jordan River. Matthew calls this region the “desert of Judea.” Coins found at this site date from BC 130 to AD 70.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered from 1947-1952 in a series of eleven caves, cast new light on the nature and beliefs of the Essenes. They stressed the need for personal piety and separation from the impurities of daily life, and deemed themselves to be the only true Israel. They conformed themselves to the most rigid rules of priestly piety, while aspiring to the highest degree of holiness.

It is possible John the Baptist may have been an Essene or was at least deeply influenced by Essenism. His lifestyle certainly paralleled the Essenes and it was from the same desert area that he emerged to herald Jesus as the Messiah.

Certain characteristics of early Christian life suggest Essene influence (1 Cor. 5:4-5Matt. 18:15-17Acts 5:1-11). Although the Essenes are nowhere mentioned in the Gospels, it is reasonable to assume that a number of them, such as those who lived at Qumran, became Christians.

It is one of the less proud facts of Jewish history that Rome occupied Jerusalem in BC 63 — not by invasion, but by invitation. The throne of Israel was vacant from the time of the Babylonian exile to the time of Alexander Jannæus. Driven by a craze for power, he was a cruel, intolerant ruler, involved in political intrigues and warlike campaigns.

As a Sadducee, Alexander Jannæus had an undying hostility toward the Pharisees, whom he considered his personal enemies. The Pharisees considered him a usurper to the throne of King David and, because he married a widow — in violation of God’s law that forbade a priest to do so — should not and could not be high priest. He was for them a common soldier whose hands were always wet with human blood.

The Pharisees did their best to incite the common people against the king. In kind, the king’s hatred knew no bounds. His quest for power was responsible for the death of thousands of Jews. The Pharisees eventually provoked a revolt against Alexander that lasted six years and cost the lives of an estimated 50,000 rebel Jews.

Alexander died in BC 76, after an illness of three years, most probably caused by alcoholism. He left the throne to his wife, Alexandra Salome, who ruled until her death in BC 67. Alexandra made peace with the Pharisees and relinquished control of the country to them. The Pharisees grew in power and authority. Sorely outraged by the abuses heaped upon them, they would not allow their enemies to escape without punishment. They in turn began a series of persecutions and judicial murders, which opened up the old wounds and the cycle of violence continued.

There was a dispute over who should occupy the throne of Israel upon the death of Queen Alexandra. Her sons, Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II, the high priest, entered into a full-scale fraternal and civil war to decide who should reign. Eventually, the brothers decided to submit their dispute to Pompey, the Roman General in Syria, who ruled in favor of Hyrcanus, apparently believing him to be the more pliable of the two. No match for the Roman army, Aristobulus surrendered to Pompey. Hyrcanus’s ability to rule depended upon Roman support; thus he invited the Roman Army to occupy Jerusalem in BC 63.

Pompey encountered resistance only at the Temple Mount. After a three-month siege, the Romans succeeded in entering the Temple after killing several thousand of its priests and defenders. Pompey further horrified Jewish sensibilities by walking straight into the Temple’s Holy of Holies, a room which, according to Jewish Law, was to be entered only once a year on Yom Kippur and then only by the High Priest. After the conquest, there followed the slaughter of approximately 12,000 of the defenders. Most were killed, not by the Romans, but by the Pharisees, who supported Hyrcanus. The day following the conquest, Pompey ordered the Temple to be cleansed and the liturgical services resumed. He installed Hyrcanus as high priest, but not with the title of king.

The Roman occupation marked the end of the Jewish State’s independence. Pompey wasted no time in converting the Jewish kingdom into a Roman tributary. Hyrcanus’ major responsibility was to collect the tribute for his Roman masters. Clashes and rebellions plagued the Romans until 6 AD, when the policy of native rulers for Palestine was ended. Strategically, for the Romans, the country was too important and its people too turbulent to do without direct Roman rule. A Roman officer, with the title of procurator was placed in control, responsible only to the emperor.

As the years passed, there were clashes and the land seethed with rebellion against all the procurators, bad and good alike. The most serious resistance came from Galilee, where the leaders were the Zealots. They were extremists who shrank from nothing to bring down their pagan rulers. Their watchword was: “No God but Yahweh, no tax but to the temple, no friends but the Zealot.” These anti-Roman rebels were active for more than 60 years, and later instigated the Great Revolt in 66 AD.

It is said that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod and we know that Herod died 4 BC. It is believed that Jesus died approximately 29 AD at 33 years old. The NT began to be written shortly after Jesus’ death.

The year 70 AD saw the destruction of the second temple in what became to be known as “The Jewish War”. During this war, all of the High Priests were killed, not by the Romans, but by their own people. The Jews rose up against the High Priests and kill them all. The remaining priests died in the defense of the Temple and the sacrificial priesthood came to an end. In addition, when the temple was destroyed, all the Levitical records were burned. There is no way that anyone today could claim to be the Messiah as it would be impossible to trace his lineage back to King David.

There were many signs, portents, during the time of Jesus, which pointed to the ultimate destruction of the Temple. One of the signs took place on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The High Priest offered fifteen sacrifices on this day. Five of the sacrifices took place in the Holy of Holies. Ten other sacrifices were offered in the regular manner outside the Holy of Holies. Two lambs were sacrificed, one in the Holy of Holies, and the other driven off a cliff to its death. These lambs were sacrificed in atonement for the sins of the High Priest and the Jewish people. This is the origin of the term scapegoat. A thread of crimson wool was placed around the necks of the lambs and also secured the Temple doors. It was believed that if the thread of crimson wool turned white, it would signify that the sacrifices were pleasing to God. Every year, the thread of crimson wool ribbon turned from crimson to white, until the year Jesus was crucified. At that time the true Lamb of God had been sacrificed and the sacrifice of animals was no longer accepted.

During the middle of the night the temple doors opened by themselves. Iron rods imbedded into the stone floor secured the doors and it normally it took 20 men to open or shut them. The high priests understood that this was the sign from God that the temple would be open to destruction.

It is conceivable that God gave the Jews 40 years – a generation – to accept His son as the Messiah, and then allowed the temple to be destroyed and the sacrificial priesthood to be wiped out.

The next period in the history of the Jewish Bible is at the end of the first century, some 10 to 30 years after the destruction of the Temple. By that time, a strong rabbinical academy had been established by Yohanan ben Zakkai at Yavneh (in Greek: Jamnia), located near the coast between Jaffa and Ashod, approximately 12 miles south of present day Tel Aviv. Rabban (Rabbi) Zakkai knew that in order to preserve the organic body of Judaism, it would be necessary to have an organized group of men to take over the duties and responsibilities of the then-defunct Sanhedrin. He therefore organized a council of teachers, the Bet Din, which served as senate, as court and as parliament — in other words, the voice of scatteredIsrael.

On the whole, the Yavnean sages proved to be very adept ideologically; they mitigated the disaster of AD 70 by offering alternate means of religious expression in the absence of theSecond Temple.

It was at this great center of learning the rabbis held a synod in AD 84, where two major decisions were reached: First, Judaism would be shaped primarily by the remembered insights of Hillel the Elder; second, the Jewish canon, which had been developing for centuries, was closed, except for some decisions regarding “the Writings” (especially Ben Sirach and Esther).

By this time, Christians were using the Bible to show the prefigurement of Jesus. There are 300 prophecies in the OT about the Messiah and Jesus fulfilled all of them. The Jews resented this because they felt the Christians were using their own Book against them. So they decided to put together their own canon of Scripture. They had four basic criteria: They accepted, (1) only those books, which were written in Palestine. (2) Only books that were written in the Hebrew language. (3) Only books that conform to the Torah (the first five books of the Bible. (4) only books written before the death of the last Prophet, Edras (Ezra). Jews believed that God stopped speaking to them as a nation with Ezra’s death, sometime between 450 and 400 BC.  They used that as an arbitrary cutoff. They said that’s it. Anything written from the time of Ezra to their time, which was latter part of the first century, were eliminated. That eliminated seven of the books contained in the Septuagint.

The Septuagint canon had been assembled, in the form that we how have it, 100 years before Christ. Scholar, after scholar, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Jew, recognizes that the Septuagint was the Bible of the early Christian Church, just as it is the Old Testament of the Catholic Church today.

And I would like to read a couple of quotes to substantiate that: The first quote comes from the Encyclopedia Judaica, published in Israel:

“Together with the New Testament, the Septuagint constituted the Bible of the Christian Church. And it is still the Bible of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Old Testament contains a translation of all of the Books of the Hebrew canon. It also embodies the deuterocanonical Books of the Catholic Church.”

When we speak about the deuterocanonical Books versus protocanonical, “protocanonical” means first canon and “deuterocanonical” means second canon. It does not mean that the deuterocanonical books have lesser stature within the canon of Scripture, only that these books were established as canonical at a latter date.

Many people do not realize that there are both protocanonical and Deuterocanonical books in the New Testament. For example, the letter of Paul to the Hebrews wasn’t actually established as Scripture until about 380 AD, so that’s an example of deuterocanonical book.

Another quote is from the Tenakh, the actually Jewish Bible published today: “With the growth of Christianity in the first century, the Church adopted the Septuagint as its Bible and the Septuagint was translated into the language of various Christian communities.”

Another quote is from a Protestant perspective from F. F. Bruce, a leading Protestant scholar: “There are two main reasons why the Jews lost interest in the Septuagint. One was that from the first century AD onwards, the Christians adopted it as their version of the Old Testament and used it freely in the propagation in defense of the Christian faith.”

And finally one more quote from the Nelson’s Bible dictionary, which again is a non-Catholic source: “When Christianity penetrated the world of the Greek speaking Jews and then of the Gentiles, the Septuagint was the Bible used for preaching the Gospel. Most of the Old Testament quotations used in the New Testament are taken from the Greek Bible. In fact, the Christians adopted the Septuagint so wholeheartedly, that the Jewish people lost interest in it. They produced other Greek versions that do not lend themselves so easily to Christian interpretation. The Septuagint thus became the authorized version of the early Gentile Churches. To this day it is the official version of the OT used in the Greek Orthodox Church. After the Books of the NT were written and accepted by the early Church they were added to the Old Testament Septuagint to form the complete Greek version of the Bible.”

So here we have Protestant, Catholic and Jewish sources all readily admitting that the Bible of the early Christian Church was the Septuagint. Why is that important? Because the Septuagint contained 46 Books. If you do some study in Apologetics or Bible history, you’ll see the Septuagint described as 42 Books, 24 Books, or 22 books, depending upon the numbering. But what you will find is that regardless of this numbering, is that the content was the same. Essentially the Old Testament canon of the early Christian Church was identical to the Bible we have today.

Next in our study, is the formulation of the New Testament canon of Scripture, compiled by Catholic Bishops over a 26-year period.

The canon of Scripture, which we hold today, was assembled during councils held in Northern Africa.  In 393 AD there was the Council at Hippo. At the time, St. Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo and he was very active in this particular Council. There were also the Councils of the 4th and 5th Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419 AD respectively. It took 26 years for the leaders of the Catholic Church to establish which books belonged in the NT. At the time there were actually almost 50 gospels and 22 Books of Acts. There were the Acts of Thomas, and Phillip and Peter etc; it seems that everybody wanted to get into the act. There are also numerous Gnostic writings. Gnostics were a secret society, who claimed that they had secret information given to them directly by Christ. Only when a person was initiated into the group could they gain access to this secret knowledge.

There was a great deal of confusion as to what Books really belonged in the Bible, so the Holy Spirit used the authority of these Bishops to establish the canon. They selected 27 Books, which they considered as divinely inspired.

They used a twofold criterion: First, could they trace the books to the pen of one of the Apostles? If there was a direct connection the books were accepted as divinely inspired and were incorporated in the Bible. Keep in mind there was no real direct communication, letters might have taken months or years to get from one person to another, and at times letters were lost.

The second criteria was to determine whether or not these Books coincided and conformed to the Oral Teachings of the Apostles. What I’m speaking about here is what we Catholics refer to as Sacred Tradition, the Oral Teaching of the Apostles. The Gospels of Mark and Luke illustrate the concept of Sacred Tradition. Mark and Luke never met Jesus and obviously never heard Him speak. So logically, you would might wonder why these Books are in the Bible. Mark was the secretary, traveling companion and interpreter for Peter. Wherever Peter went, Mark went with him. Peter could not speak Greek so Mark translated for him. Luke traveled with St. Paul in the same way. There is evidence that the Christian community went to Mark and Luke and asked them to write down what they heard from the apostles.

Sacred Tradition does not mean that these things were not written, only that they hadn’t been written by one of the Apostles. The listeners recorded these teachings. The Church, over this 26-year period, formulated the New Testament canon. This canon was called the African Code and contained 27 books.

Non-Catholics will many times point out that the councils of Hippo and Carthage were not ecumenical councils, and therefore claim that they had no authority. An ecumenical council is when all the bishops of the world come together with the Pope as the head to define some particular law or doctrine. As African councils were local and not ecumenical, Protestants will say the authority was negated. In the year 787 the 2nd ecumenical Council of Nicea ratified the African Code. In other words at the 2nd Council of Nicea the entire Bible canon was fully approved and this canon has been in use in the Church ever since. It was the first time an ecumenical council had ratified a canon of Scripture. The council of Florence in 1442, reiterated the same canon, and finally after the Protestant Reformation there was the Council of Trent, which also accepted the canon of the African code.

What happened to account for the difference between the Protestant Bible and the Catholic Bible canons of today?

Approximately eleven hundred years passed from the Fifth Council of Carthage in 419 to the Protestant Reformation in 1517. During this period the canon of Scripture remained the same. Every Christians used a Bible whose canon is identical to the one we Catholics have today.

Then Martin Luther came on the world scene. Luther, as you know, instigated the Protestant Reformation. You may have been told that he did this because the Catholic Church was selling indulgences. This was not his primary reason, it was merely the excuse given to start the Revolt. The Protestant Reformation was really begun many years before that time in the roots in the Avignon papacy.

In 1307, the pope was elected from France and he did not like Italy so he moved the Papacy to France. And after years of literally moving from town to town he established the papacy in Avignon, France and it remained there was there for 70 years. This was a time when the papacy steadily lost its authority. St. Catherine of Sienna eventually went to the Pope inAvignon (the third Pope to reign in Avignon) and convinced him to return to Italy.

The Pope went back to Italy and resided in Rome. After a few years of being back in Rome the Pope died. When the new Pope was elected, some of the people in France did not like the person elected. They elected their own Pope, which we now refer to as an anti-pope. And this went on for a period of years. Later, in Pisa, Italy a second antipope was elected. So from 1378 to 1447 they were two antipopes as well as the one true Pope. And the average Christian didn’t know who was their actual spiritual leader. The people in France mounted armies against Rome, and Rome mounted armies against the Avignon Papacy. There were wars where Catholics fought against Catholics. The average person, who might have been the farmer out in the field, could really have cared less. They had no idea who was the true Pope. The authority of the Vatican was tremendously diminished at that time.

A Second cause was the Black Death? The Black Plague began in 1348 and lasted for 30 months. It started in the Crimea and swept down through N. Africa and north throughEurope. All of Europe was ravaged and it spread as far as Greenland. And it is estimated at that during this time that 25 million died of the Black Plague.

We are talking about the death of roughly, 25% of the population of Europe. Who do you think took care of these plague victims? Who was the most knowledgeable and dedicated? They were the priests, the monks, and sister. And the Black Plague reoccurred 8 times from 1450 to 1500 AD. There was widespread starvation. This was when Europe began to fractionalize where different people met and coalesced together and they started what we now know as Germany, France, and the other European countries.  People wanted to be with people they understood, to protect themselves. Strangers were driven away, as they might be contagious.

It was the priests and religious that trying to minister to the needs of the sick and dying and as a result, they were hit the hardest. In France specifically, in Europe entire monasteries were wiped out. They ended up losing 300 men of the Curia in Avignon at that time. Thousands of religious died. It could be estimate, although I have never seen any figures that 90% of the Catholic Clergy died during this period of the Black Plague. In addition, many of the educated clergy who managed to survive were put to work by the secular authorities. So what was left for the Church as the priesthood had been decimated?

Death from starvation was also rampant. There were a lot of people simply trying to survive, who were looking for any way to keep themselves alive. Some of these men turned to the priesthood in the hope that they would be fed by the people. The Church, in her desperation to serve the needs of the people started ordaining some men who were not really the best qualified or ideally suited. During this time of great upheaval the quality of many of the clergy was less than what would be desired.

Finally, the third cause of the Reformation was Pope Leo the 10th.  Pope Leo, a layperson, was ordained to the priesthood and papacy in 1513 and died in 1521. He was a member of the prestigious Medici family. The first thing he said after becoming Pope to his brother was, “let us enjoy what God has given us.” Within two years, he had emptied all of the Papal coffers through negligence. All of the money was gone, so in order to raise more he established the indulgence. Now indulgences are never to be sold, that’s not what indulgences are about. Essentially, he sent people out to raise money, not only to fill the coffers, but also for the building of St. Peter’s basilica.

At the time the doctrine of the indulgence was not as understood or clarified as it is today in Catholic doctrine. So there was a great deal of confusion. The person chosen to preach the indulgence was given a percentage of the money raised. Some of the pope’s representatives went to the German Princes to request permission to preach the indulgence and the princes replied that they wanted a portion of the money raised. The authorities and the preachers were each earning a percentage of the money and this led to abuses and misrepresentations.

This was the excuse that Luther used to break away from the Catholic Church. Essentially Luther was not a very well educated man at the time he was ordained to the priesthood. He only had about nine months of Catholic theology. He was an ultra scrupulous person and believed that God was a God of vengeance. He looked at God as a loving God, but as a very vengeful God.

He was so afraid of God that he had to be restrained from leaving and actually collapsed behind the altar, when he said his first mass. He was terrified that if he did anything wrong at the altar, God would strike him dead. That was the kind of mentality he had.

Luther began to develop a theology that was quite new in Catholic circles. He first of all started to study Scripture and decided that God had preordained certain people to go to Heaven and others would go to Hell. This doctrine is called predestination. Now once God had decided the fate of an individual, He would not change His mind. Rather that conforming himself to God’s word, he tried to make God’s word conform to his desires.

How would you know if you are one of the elect, he asked? How would you know if you are one that has been saved by God? Simply saying that you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior was all that was necessary to gain salvation. Luther claimed that John 3:5 refers to this verbal acceptance. In actually, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Nicodemus you have to be born again” and Nicodemus said, “How do I get back into the womb of my mother.” Jesus chastised him and said that since Nicodemus was a man of the law, he should have understood. Jesus went on to say, “You must be born from above by water and the Spirit.” Now every commentary that had ever been written up until the time of the Protestant Reformation, recognized that Jesus was speaking about Baptism. Titus 3:5 says that we are saved through the washing of regeneration. What washing regenerates us? The Church has always taught that Baptism is the answer. In Gal. 4 & 5, it states that through Baptism we become sons and daughters of God and we are entitled to God’s inheritance, which is eternal life. So as Catholics we believe that our Baptismal gift from God is eternal life. You cannot earn a free gift. The council of Trent in the sixth section on justification in 1545 specifically condemned the idea that anyone can work his or her way into Heaven.

Luther taught that if you said, “I accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior,” you could not have done this without the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore that just verbalizing this you knew that you were saved and as God is not a God of confusion and He does not change His mind, a person could not lose salvation. Luther said that a “saved” person could commit murder and fornication 1,000 times a day and they would not lose their salvation. He said, “Sin and sin boldly, but believe more boldly.” Belief was all that was necessary for salvation. This was the origination of Luther’s doctrine of Faith Alone.

The consequences of this theology were devastating for Germany and for every country where it has since taken root. Wherever Protestantism swept, from Germany into France,Switzerland and England, even to America, this gospel destroyed the moral fiber of the people by removing the consequences of sin. Luther and Calvin wrote about the devastation that their gospel caused. Without the fear of consequences, sin became rampant, especially among the Protestant clergy. Indeed, the connection between the progress of Lutheranism and the corruption of public morals could not be put more strikingly than in the words of Luther himself. Luther saw the seeds of the Reformation he initiated grow to fruition and he was appalled. He wrote:

“Our evangelists are now sevenfold more wicked than they were before the Reformation . In proportion as we hear the gospel, we steal, lie, cheat, gorge, swill, and commit every crime. If one devil has been driven out of us, seven worse ones have taken their place, to judge of the conduct of princes, lords, nobles, burgesses, and peasants — their utterly shameless acts, and their disregard for God and his menaces. Under the papacy, men were charitable, and gave freely; but now under the gospel, all alms giving is at an end, everyone fleeces his neighbor, and each seeks to have all for himself. And the longer the gospel is preached, the deeper do men sink in avarice, pride, and ostentation. The peasants, through the influences of the gospel, have become utterly beyond restraint, and they think they may do what they please. They no longer fear neither hell or purgatory, but content themselves with saying, “I believe, therefore I shall be saved”; and they become proud, stiff-necked mammonists (One who is devoted to the ideal or pursuit of wealth), and accursed misers, sucking up the very substance of the country and the people.”

Luther continued to write in a similar manner up to the very last year of his life.

Writing to a friend in 1542, he assures him “that he had almost abandoned all hope for Germany, so universal had avarice, usury, tyranny, disunion, and the whole host of untruth, wickedness, and treachery, as well as disregard of the word of God and the most unheard-of ingratitude, taken possession of the nobility, the courts, the towns, and the villages.”

Just before his death in February 1846 Luther wrote to his wife:

“Let us fly from this Sodom (Wittenberg). I will wander through the world, and beg my bread from door to door, rather than to embitter and disturb my poor old last days by this spectacle of the disorder of Wittenberg, and the fruitlessness of my bitter toil in its service …The world grows worse and worse, and becomes more wicked every day. Men are now more given to revenge, more avaricious, more devoid of mercy, less modest and more incorrigible — in fine, more wicked than in the papacy. … One thing, no less astonishing than scandalous, is to see that, since the pure doctrine of the gospel has been brought to light, the world daily goes from bad to worse.”

“Since the downfall of popery, and the cessation of its excommunications and spiritual penalties, the people have learned to despise the word of God. They care no longer for the churches; they have ceased to fear and honor God.

The noblemen and the peasants have come to such a pitch that they live as they believe; they are, and continue to be, swine; they live like swine and they die like real swine.”

Calvin criticized his followers:

“The pastors, yes, the pastors themselves who mount the pulpit … are at the present time the most shameful examples of waywardness and other vices. Hence their sermons obtain neither more credit nor authority than the fictitious tales uttered on the stage by the strolling player. … I am astonished that the women and children do not cover them with mud and filth.”

This Protestant ethic and gospel exists with us today. We are living in a country that is nominally Christian. It is estimate that as many as 130 million people have no religious affiliation what so ever, and another 18 million are fallen away Catholics. So in other words more than one out of two people in America have no real religious affiliation. And we wonder why we are aborting a million and a half babies per year and why are elderly people are being put to death now in Oregon. This is what happens when we say well Jesus did all and His sacrifice on the Cross was all that was necessary. We are accountable before God.

Luther doctrine also denied free will. The book of Sirach, 15:11-20, tells us that we have free will; that God is not the author of our sin. This book is also called Ecclesiasticus, which means the book of the Church. It was called the book of the Church because during the early days of Christianity it was the most used book in the evangelization of pagans and Greeks and in the training and catechesis of the early Christians.

Luther taught that if a person accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, they would go to Heaven, if they did not, they would go to Hell.

Where does this whole doctrine of Purgatory come in? Now the Church had been teaching the doctrine of Purgatory for 2000 years. But let me tell you folks it was believed thousands of years before Christ. The doctrine of Purgatory goes so far back into iniquity we don’t know its origins. The Jews certainly believed in purgatory. If you look in any Jewish encyclopedia today, and you look up the word Hell it will have little equal signs and say Purgatory. The doctrine of Purgatory is one of the oldest beliefs in Judeo-Christianity.

Remember the term “7th Heaven.” What does the term mean? When I was a young lad, we used the term to refer to someone who was really happy, joyously happy. I had no idea of the origin of the term until I began to study Judaism. Jews believed that there were 7 levels of Heaven, and each level of Heaven had a specific purpose. The 7th level of Heaven was were the throne of God resided. So if you were in the 7th Heaven you had made the grade and were in perfect happiness. Now 7 is the number of perfection in the Scriptures. So if there were 7 levels of Heaven, how many levels of Hell do you think there were? Seven, there is always a balance. Now if the 7th level of Heaven was the place of perfect joy and harmony and happiness. The 7th level of Hell was exactly the opposite – darkness, hate, fire, brimstone, and agony. The 7th level of Hell was called Gehenna. One difference between Jewish belief and our belief today is that the Jews believe that when the soul was consigned to Gehenna, it would be annihilated after 12 months. But when Jesus came on the scene, He taught that the pain of Gehenna is everlasting. The Catholic Church teaches only two truths concerning purgatory: (1) purgatory exists, and (2) our prayers help those that are there.

Now what was the first level of Hell? Remember the Good Thief on the Cross, tradition tells us his name was Dismas, he looked at Jesus and said, “Lord remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus answered, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Well where was Paradise? Many people would say well it was Heaven. But Heaven was not opened until Jesus ascended to His Father; He opened Heaven. The Apostles Creed says that Jesus descended into Hell. Jesus did not go there to preach to the damned. He went to paradise to tell the righteous that their wait was almost over.

So, the first level of Hell was Paradise or the bosom of Abraham. Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man. And Lazarus was starving outside the rich man’s home; the dogs would come to lick his sores. The rich man was not an evil person. The scriptures do not describe him as a serious sinner, just a rich person who neglected to share his wealth with the poor.  He saw the needs of the people, but he blinded himself and did not help them.

You know when Jesus says it’s harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of needle, He meant that literally. Because the more that God gives us, the more we need to share with the poor and to use our wealth for God’s purposes.

Lazarus was in the paradise, or as it was also called, the bosom of Abraham. The rich man died and he went to a place adjacent to the bosom of paradise. We know this because he could see Paradise. The rich man said, “Father Abraham, send Lazarus to wet my lips as I am in anguish.” Lazarus thirsts and is in pain. Father Abraham tell him that this cannot be done because there is a gulf between then, which no one can pass over. The rich man says, then send Lazarus to my father, for I have five brothers and I do not want them to end up here. Abraham said that this would not do any good as the Prophets were sent and they did not listen to them. What makes you think that if some one rises from the dead that they going to believe.

So we know that the rich man had love in his heart for his brothers. He could not be in Gehenna, because there is no love in Gehenna. The opposite of the joy of the 7th level of Heaven, is pain and hatred. As much love as there is in Heaven, there is the antithesis of that in Gehenna, pure hatred.

Jews believe that levels 2 – 6 were Purgatory. What state a person received depended on the state of a person’s soul at the time of death. If a person was really bad, but not bad enough to go to Gehenna, they would go to level 6. And as they expiated their sins they would gradually graduate to a level closer to paradise. Paradise is now empty. When Jesus ascended to Heaven, he took all of those righteous souls with Him to Heaven.

We also have reference to purgatory in the 2nd book of Maccabees, vs. 12:43 and following. Here is the story of Judas Maccabees, a righteous Jewish king. Judas was in submission to the authority of God. He went into battle and a number of his men were slain. As the Sabbath was coming they had to delay the burial. They went to the town of Abdulum, passed the Sabbath and cleansed themselves of the blood of war. When they went back to the battlefield to bury their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs they found amulets sacred to the idol of Jamnia underneath the tunics of the dead. That would be tantamount to saying, “Well I trust in God, but just in case I am going to carry a rabbit’s foot.” They did not have total trust and confidence in God. So Judas recognized this sin and praised God for revealing it to him. You cannot give God 90%; He wants 100%.

So Judas took up a collection of money from the surviving soldiers and sent it to Jerusalem to offer an expiatory sacrifice for the sins of those men who had fallen. Now if you do not understand the term expiatory, the crucifix demonstrates such a sacrifice, it was the perfect expiatory sacrifice. An expiatory sacrifice is one that somebody does for the sake of another. So Judas took 2000 silver drachmas (2000 days wages) to Jerusalem to offer prayer and sacrifice for the souls of the dead.

Luther denied the doctrine of Purgatory, which is found in 2nd Maccabees and denied free will, which is found in Sirach. He could not just remove these two books from the Bible. So what did Luther do? He literally rejected the entire canon of Scripture used by the Church for 1,500 years and substituted the Jewish cannon of Scripture which was put together by Jews who had rejected Jesus as the Messiah, at the end of the first century.

He took the seven books that were contested and he called them apocryphal, which means false or spurious. He sandwiched them between the Old and New Testament in his Bible and claimed that they were worthy of study, but not divinely inspired.

Finally in 1826, these books were removed from all Protestant Bibles, because it was cheaper to publish the Bible without them. So essentially this is why there is a difference today between the Protestant and Catholic Bibles. The Bible clearly teaches prayer for the dead and freewill. This demonstrates that the doctrine of “Faith Alone” and “once saved, always saved” are false.

St. Augustine said that he would not believe in the Scriptures except for the authority of the Church. He would first go to the Scriptures for guidance, but if a particular interpretation was in doubt, he would go into the early writings of the Fathers, which is something that Catholics have been doing for 2000 years. The false doctrine of sola scriptura, that the Bible and the Bible Alone is our only rule of faith, and the false doctrine of sola fide, which means that faith and faith alone is all that is necessary for salvation, demonstrates a decided lack of biblical understanding.

Those who rely on the Bible alone do not have all the information that they need to determine truth. As a result, we now have thousands and thousands of Christian denominations, each of them using the same foundation of Scriptures alone. All claim the authority of the One Holy Spirit and cannot come to agreement except on the very basics of Christianity. As there is only One Holy Spirit, there can be only one truth. Jesus established a visible Church, and this Church had bishops, priests, and deacons. There are anywhere from 22,000 to 28,000 Christian denominations each claiming their authority comes from the Bible.

Long before the Bible ever existed there was the Church. The Church is the pillar land foundation of truth (2 Tim. 3:15). I think it is important for us as Catholics, to understand that the Bible is a Catholic book. Catholics wrote it, for Catholics. In a sense, we could say that we own the copyright. It is our book and we need to be familiar with the Bible. Not just the New Testament but the Old Testament as well. This is the book of the Church. But it is not all we have to guide us. We also have the authority of the Church and the Sacred Tradition of the Church Fathers.

© 2004 – Victor R. Claveau

END OF POST/SOURCE

Finding the Fullness of Christian Truth…

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“Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours” (2 Thess. 2:15)

Tradition, Scripture, and Magisterium: The Fullness of Truth

By F. K. Bartels
3/24/2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Christian faith is not a “religion of the book.” Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, a word which is “not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living” (Catechism of The Catholic Church, No. 108).

GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) – On March 23 Pope Benedict XVI, during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square, focused his catechesis on St. Lawrence, whom he acknowledged as an “effective preacher,” and a “theologian versed in sacred Scripture and the fathers of the Church.” St. Lawrence was, continued the Pope, “also able to illustrate in an exemplary way the Catholic doctrine to Christians who, above all in Germany, had followed the Reformation.” 

“With his clear and quiet exposition,” continued our Holy Father, St. Lawrence “showed the biblical and patristic foundation of all the articles of the faith called into question by Martin Luther. Among these, the primacy of St. Peter and his Successors, the divine origin of the episcopate, justification as man’s interior transformation, the need of good works for salvation. The success that Lawrence enjoyed helps us to understand that also today, in carrying forward ecumenical dialogue with so much hope, the confrontation with sacred Scripture, read in the Tradition of the Church, is an irreplaceable element of fundamental importance, as I wished to recall in the apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini.”

It is not necessary to ask why Pope Benedict would use the phrase “confrontation with sacred Scripture”; for it is the inconsistent interpretation of Scripture itself which often continues to — at least to a large extent — fuel disunity in contemporary Christendom. Our Lord prayed for unity among his followers on the eve of his Passion (see Jn. 17); however, it will not be achieved until Christians can agree on key doctrines of the Christian religion, such as those mentioned above by our Holy Father.

Pope Benedict also emphasized the importance of reading Scripture “in the Tradition of the Church.” The inseparable relationship between Tradition (the word of God revealed to the living community of the Church) and Scripture remains as perhaps the single most misunderstood element of the true Christian religion among those who trace the origin of their particular faith tradition to the Reformation. Simply, Tradition is viewed today by some Christians as an intrusion on the word of God, when, in fact, it is just the opposite: it is essential to a fruitful and proper understanding of Scripture. One without the other diminishes the whole of God’s revealed word.

The notion that Scripture should be interpreted in an isolated fashion apart from Tradition was foreign to the apostolic Church, as St. Paul attests: “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours” (2 Thess. 2:15). It was not until Martin Luther and the Reformation in the sixteenth century that sola scriptura became entrenched in parts of Christendom. Thomas Bokenkotter wrote that for “Luther, ‘Scripture alone’ was the supreme authority in religion-and henceforth this phrase became the rallying cry of all Protestants” (A Concise History of the Catholic Church, 208).

Further, Hilaire Belloc noted that the main principle of the Reformation was a “reaction against a united spiritual authority” (The Great Heresies, 97). While the Reformation was ignited by a complex array of disagreements, clergy abuses, frustration over certain practices in the Church at that time, and other issues, it was nevertheless the tenet of “Scripture alone” which provided the reformers with an anchor point on which a break from the authority of the Catholic Church could be both implemented and, so it seems, sustained. The Christians of that period were Catholics and, in order to facilitate a break with Rome, it became necessary to argue against the importance of Tradition and the authority of the Church: “Scripture alone” became the foundation of such an argument.

Tradition: The Revealed Word of God In History

In Part One of Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict XVI, in describing the various ways in which the word of God is spoken throughout salvation history, focuses on the relationship between Tradition and Scripture. It is important to recognize that, at the very outset, our Holy Father wished to make clear the inseparable relationship between the apostolic Tradition contained in the living Church and the written word of God preserved in Sacred Scripture:

“Then too, the word of God is that word preached by the Apostles in obedience to the command of the Risen Jesus: ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation’ (Mk. 16:15). The word of God is thus handed on in the Church’s living Tradition. Finally, the word of God, attested and divinely inspired, is sacred Scripture, the Old and New Testaments. All this helps us to see that, while in the Church we greatly venerate the sacred Scriptures, the Christian faith is not a ‘religion of the book’: Christianity is the ‘religion of the word of God,’ not of ‘a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word’ (qtd. from St. Bernard of Clairvaux). Consequently the Scripture is to be proclaimed, heard, read, received and experienced as the word of God, in the stream of the apostolic Tradition from which it is inseparable” (Verbum Domini, 7).

We might think of Tradition as the foundation upon which Sacred Scripture is built, for Tradition is of apostolic origin, and was first received into the Church by the Apostles who heard it from the Savior’s own lips. These men, the foundation-stones of the Church (Eph. 2:20), went forth and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, handed on by “oral preaching, by their example, [and] by their ordinances, what they themselves had received.” It was the “Apostles and others associated with them who, under the inspiration [of the] Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing” (Ibid., 17-18).

Quoting from Vatican IIs Dei Verbum, Pope Benedict XVI stated that Tradition is “a living and dynamic reality”: it “‘makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit’; yet not in the sense that it changes in its truth, which is perennial. Rather, ‘there is a growth in insight into the realities and the words that are being passed on,’ through contemplation and study, with the understanding granted by deeper spiritual experience and by the ‘preaching of those who, on succeeding to the office of bishop, have received the sure charism of truth'” (Ibid.).

Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium: The Threefold Key To Christian Unity

It is hardly necessary to ask whether “Scripture alone” is entirely sufficient as the sole rule of faith for the Christian religion. The centuries since the Reformation up to present times adequately demonstrate that it is not. Nevertheless, it should be of great interest to every Christian who cherishes the word of God in their heart to contemplate sincerely and carefully whether or not they are receiving God’s revelation in its entirety. In a word, is the fullness of truth important? Surely every devout and pious Christian will agree that it is. In our love for God we want to know the whole truth, for God is Truth, and we intuitively understand that it is necessary to live in the truth to live with God. The truth is an inseparable and integral part of the Christian life, for it was Jesus Christ who said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). It could easily be argued that, for the Christian, accessing the fullness of truth is as important as even a breath of air: while oxygen is necessary for our bodies it is the Risen Lord of Truth who sustains us and provides our very life-principle.

It becomes, then, a question of whether Scripture contains the whole of God’s revelation to his people. As much as we cherish Scripture, the answer can be nothing other than a definitive “no.” In the economy of salvation God speaks to his people through history, creation, the prophets, and “most fully in the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Son of God” (Verbum Domini, 7). It was the Person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, who self-communicated his word to the Apostles, informing them of what he desired them to know and what he wished them to communicate to the Church, the People for whom he gave up his life on the cross. The point is, the transmission of God’s revelation took place first in the ecclesial community through oral preaching. Later, it was members of that same Church who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, recorded in the New Testament some of the sayings and parables of Jesus, the mysteries of his life, his commands, and some of what had been revealed to the Apostles by the Spirit.

Through apostolic succession, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church has faithfully cherished and transmitted the deposit of faith she received from Christ, which includes both Tradition and Scripture in accordance with the Risen Lord’s command: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). Thus we can easily see that in order to access the fullness of truth — the deposit of faith given the Church by Jesus Christ — one must consult both Tradition and Scripture. The Gospel is both God’s unwritten and written word, not, rather, simply the written word only. As Pope Benedict observed, “Ultimately, it is the living Tradition of the Church which makes us adequately understand sacred Scripture as the word of God” (Verbum Domini, 17-18).

Further, the spiritual authority of the Catholic Church Christ founded and which the reformers so often sought to dismiss is just as integral and inseparable from the fullness of truth as is Tradition and Scripture. For apart from the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church, the fullness of God’s revelation cannot be maintained on earth in its integrity.

“It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls” (Catechism of The Catholic Church, No. 95).

Pope Benedict XVI reminds those faithful who thirst for the fullness of God’s revealed truth where the nourishing fount of “the supreme rule of faith” is to be found: “In short, by the work of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the magisterium, the Church hands on to every generation all that has been revealed in Christ. The Church lives in the certainty that her Lord, who spoke in the past, continues today to communicate his word in her living Tradition and in sacred Scripture. Indeed, the word of God is given to us in sacred Scripture as an inspired testimony to revelation; together with the Church’s living Tradition, it constitutes the supreme rule of faith” (Verbum Domini, 17-18).

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F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at catholicpathways.com

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